New North American carbon fiber plant may end up in Washington State

SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers apparently is considering Grant County, Wash., for location of a carbon fiber manufacturing plant to supply material for BMW's Megacity vehicle.

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Since the Oct. 29, 2009, announcement of the SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) and automaker BMW Group (Munich, Germany) joint venture to manufacture carbon fiber and fabrics for automotive applications, speculation has swirled regarding the location of the new entity’s North American carbon fiber manufacturing plant.

The joint venture announcement named two separate operating companies: SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers GmbH & Co. KG will handle fabric fabrication at a plant that will be built in Munich, Germany, while a new North American production facility, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, supplies raw fiber. Subsequent yet unsubstantiated news reports suggested only that the fiber plant would be situated where it could make use of hydroelectric power. But two recent reports out of the U.S. state of Washington indicate that the group has narrowed its options.

According to items published in the Puget Sound Business Journal and the Columbia Basin Herald, the new plant might be located in or near Moses Lake, in Grant County, Wash. The location offers access to substantial hydroelectric power and, therefore, makes an attractive candidate for the energy-intensive carbon fiber manufacturing process. However, the reports indicate that SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers also is considering a location in Canada. An SGL spokesperson told HPC at press time that a formal decision had not yet been made. The 200,000 ft²/18,581m² fiber production facility, according to the reports, will cost approximately $200 million (USD). Construction could begin later this year.

SGL Group will hold a 51 percent share and BMW Group will own 49 percent. In the final stage of development, annual carbon fiber and fabric consumption is expected in the range of several thousand metric tonnes (several million lb) per annum. BMW Group will secure access to key technologies and raw materials that will be used in its Megacity Vehicle, currently under development, which will mark BMW’s first use of carbon composites in large-scale automobile production.